Maintaining Good Mental Health while ‘Under Test’

Is maintaining good mental health something that automatically happens or do you feel we might need to work on doing this?

Let me tell you about an experience of a tester well-known to myself, which changed the way they thought about mental health within the work environment. This tester found themselves employed within a smallish startup environment where the CEO (who was the owner) decided to bring in a mover/shaker type of person to run the technical teams. The main issue was this person had no respect for testing or how useful it is and repeatedly voiced this to the team. There was a difference of opinion here which needed to be discussed at a management level meeting including the CEO & CTO. During that meeting the tester was screamed at abusively by said person but remained outwardly calm during the hour + meeting. The tester explained to me it was like a complete out of body experience and nothing at that very moment seemed real. The CEO & CTO tried to intervene but were unable to rectify the issue. The outcome….. the tester went on 1 weeks stress leave then handed their notice when they came back effective immediately.

You would think it would end there and that’s the interesting thing with the mind it’s a complex creature. This tester did not realise they were now suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was showing signs of high anxiety with depression. If your interested in how the brain works around this click on this link https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181836/  orhttps://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-time-cure/201211/your-brain-trauma

This health issue was there with the tester, when after a few months leave, accepted the next employment position. During the normal pressure of onboarding a frustrated co-worker raised their voice at the tester which brought back all the traumatic experience in detail. Unfortunately this tester did not realise what was happening and my guess is very few people have this sort of immediate reflective insight so it was some months of angst till the tester was able to sort out the real issue.

Here’s the point it was in the past and this tester wanted to move forward believing the only control they had was over themselves. The tester started to look for coping strategies and reading positive well-documented articles on moving forward. They looked for ways to talk to other testers and found solace in learning to recognise their professional skill set. Eventually the tester wanted to stop hiding from the world and reengage with everyone again. Good ending but a painful journey for everyone involved and the reality (in this testers mind) is this health issue stole over a year of their life including their significant other. Now I do not believe this tester thinks they are cured or completely recovered but they are able to move forward without the high anxiety alert ‘What ifs’ or the angry resentment that was building up.

That was the experience of a single tester and I am not advocating this way but I am suggesting everyone needs help one way or another when faced with a highly stressful situation. As we are all unique individual we need to find the right way for our circumstances and I would not recommend doing this all alone. The above tester who I talked about was fortunate to have a strong supportive network around them including a understanding loving significant other.

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